If you asked me last week if I’d be upset when my cat passed away, I would’ve said I’d been fine; it’s just a cat. I grew up with cats, which has helped me learn to limit how attached I let myself get to them because I know they don’t last… or so I thought. I’m also quick to say I have cats because I get too attached to dogs, which means losing one would ruin me. A cat? They’re different; they’re not as personal… sometimes. This wasn’t one of those times. That’s the strange thing about death. When someone is around, we can tell ourselves we’d be fine if they died, but when they do… nope, we were wrong. We don’t realize how much someone or something means to us until they’re gone and there’s no chance of seeing them again. Death is very final and takes away the option of seeing them again. It leaves an emptiness. What’s strange is I was more affected by losing my cat than I would be losing certain people (or so I think; I won’t know until that happens). Is that because I’m a crazy animal person or heartless to people? Maybe. The bigger issue is losing a pet can be harder than losing an acquaintance because you live with your pet. Your pet is directly involved in your life. Your pet is part of your home, which means your home feels empty when they’re gone; an acquaintance can fade away without the constant reminder of the loss. Add in the fact that your pet is part of your family history and there’s a deeper association. For instance, my cat joined the family just after my wife and I had our first Christmas in our first home and he was there when she was on maternity leave for our two girls. He was always there. Now that he’s gone, we have to retrain our brain when we walk into a room not to expect to see him there. Ultimately this experience has given me wisdom, which is great… unfortunately, most times wisdom is gained through a lot of pain. As they say, “No pain; no gain.”
When someone passes, you start to remember the little things you took for granted like my cat would regularly come into the bathroom when I was showering and lay in the sink. He could even open the pocket door if it wasn’t locked – it was impressive. The cat wasn’t a perv (I assume); he liked to wait for me to be done, so I could turn the tap on in the sink and he would drink from it like a fountain. There were nights he didn’t come into the bathroom, but after he was gone it was like, “Oh yeah, that’s never going to happen again.” There’s a painful thought.
When someone passes we also start remembering the little things that may have already stopped happening and we miss those things even though they hadn’t happened in a long time. For instance, my wife reminded me how when we first got our cat we’d take him to my mom’s for family dinner and he’d ride on my shoulder, which made passersby laugh. Turns out, a parrot on your shoulder makes you a captain. A cat on your shoulder makes you sexy…or something else.
When someone passes, even little things that were once irritating can become things we miss. My cat loved to drink water out of glasses, so you always had to be careful when you put your glass down… at least I would because I don’t like sharing drinks with anyone, especially an animal that licked his butt.
What my wife will miss the most started when I switched to working at home with the pandemic. I currently work in the basement and we have a little bathroom down there where we keep the cat litter – it helps having a fan to turn on. I grew up with lots of cats, but his litter business was something else. The show Friends had the song, “Smelly Cat,” but my cat would’ve destroyed the cat that inspired that song on a good day. A bad day? He’d make the “Smelly Cat” cry. On top of that, my cat rarely covered up his mess – lovely. It was like he was proud of the smell and wanted to share it. With this “gift,” there was many a day when he’d use the litter while I was in a virtual session and the basement would be filled with his stink. There were a handful of times my eyes would be watering it was so bad, but I couldn’t say anything to my clients because of how unprofessional that was. And with a smaller home, there was no other place to put the litter box, so it was like a daily game of Russian roulette cat stink style – less deadly, more tears. Nothing gave my wife greater joy than when I told her that I lost. The one day the cat used the litter just as I was calling a client, so it was the longgggest hour I could have trying not to choke or noticeably cry – my wife was very happy.
The funniest moment for me was about five years ago when we were watching a friend’s dog for a week. The cat was a year old and quite spritely. We hadn’t finished the basement yet, so the litter was in the back part of the living room. The cat went number two beside the litter. I’m guessing this wasn’t an accident as much as it was a “that’s what you get for having a dog here?” moment. The dog, however, took this as a gift and started rolling in it. When I entered the room I found poop on the floor and on the walls, and then I saw the dog with a browner colour coat than usual… and she was very proud of it. My wife came home very confused because she found me in my underwear in the shower hosing down the dog. She then saw poop all over the place and became this strange mix of anger and laughing. She wasn’t quite sure what to do… while I just kept showering the dog. Meanwhile, the cat was watching the chaos from his cat perch smiling as cats do. He knew he won that round.
My cat’s passing taught me some valuable lessons besides being reminded to avoid male cats because they are at risk of developing crystals in their urine, which clogs them up and often a death sentence or at least a shortened life sentence:
- It’s good to reminisce when healing from the loss of a loved one.
- It’s good to ask questions: When I was at the vet, I was given a predicted $3000 bill to start and I asked if there was a cheaper option – there was. Glad I asked.
- It’s good to have a little knowledge: I’ve had cats with this crystal issue in the past and had a good idea of what to expect.
- Be aware of the slippery slope of investing: When you invest in something, it’s hard to stop. This means you don’t agree to drop $10k on the cat right away because that’s crazy, but if you first put $3000 and then it’s another $2000, you’re more willing to keep investing until it’s suddenly $10k. It’s one of the reasons people stay in bad relationships; it’s hard to stop when you’ve already invested so much.
- Know your boundaries: I have regularly told myself I’m willing to pay up to $1500 for a pet, but I wasn’t willing to go to the lengths I’ve known others to go.
- It helps to believe in heaven: Being able to say our cat was going to heaven to be with their grandpas made it easier telling our children what was happening.
- It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all (I think I’m the first to make that statement)
This week may you enjoy your pets… or not having them and having a cleaner house with less responsibility.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)